chloe effron / istock
chloe effron / istock

Why Some People Thought the World Might End on March 10, 1982

chloe effron / istock
chloe effron / istock

On March 10, 1982, a certain facet of people were bracing for a series of global disasters—earthquakes, tidal waves, and violent storms—that they believed would be caused by an alignment of all nine planets. The alignment was real, but the fear of a natural disaster takeover wasn’t coming from NASA or world governments. It had all come from 1974 bestseller called The Jupiter Effect.

Penned by British astrophysicist and science writer John Gribbin along with astronomer Stephen Plagemann, The Jupiter Effect predicted utter devastation. Astronomers had long known about the rare planetary alignment set to occur around that date, but the event wasn’t expected to have much of an effect on Earth. After all, the same thing had occurred every 179 years (and would continue to do so) and no catastrophic events had happened in the past. Still, Gribbin and Plagemann asserted that when all the planets lined up on one side of the Sun (“lined up” being a generous phrasing; the planets would be within a 95 degree arc from the Sun), the gravitational pull would trigger sunspots, solar winds, and an increase in Earth’s rotation that would lead to natural catastrophes, the most ruinous of which would be a Los Angeles-leveling earthquake along the San Andreas fault.

While The Jupiter Effect was widely covered in the media, the scientific community largely dismissed the theory. Edward Upton of the Griffith Observatory reportedly called it the "Great Earthquake Hoax" and wrote in Redlands Daily Facts: “The combined chain, as a basis for predicting earthquakes, has the same credibility as a reading of tea leaves." Days ahead of the supposed event, Nigel Henbest of New Scientist wrote: “Like Frankenstein’s monster, the Jupiter Effect has escaped the control of its creators, and now stalks the Earth terrorising the innocent and the illiterate.” Henbest went on to debunk the entire thing, citing a number of scientific holes in the theory. And the night before the alleged worldwide disasters were to occur, a “Planets of Doom” show at the Fiske Planetarium in Boulder, Colorado presented proof that the conjecture was a bunch of hooey.

By then, even Gribbin and Plagemann had walked their theory back, releasing The Jupiter Effect Reconsidered, which didn’t exactly admit defeat but rather revised the terms to make it seem like they’d sort of gotten it right. Because the events were supposed to occur within a five-year window, Gribbin and Plagemann said the event had actually already happened—in 1980—and was to blame for the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Needless to say, March 10 came and went without any destruction or even much of a storm. While the tides were indeed a bit higher that day, no natural disasters occurred. But it’s easy, in some ways, to see how The Jupiter Effect took hold: nothing can propel a doomsday scenario like the promise of scientific proof provided by legitimate astronomers. Looking back, it’s hard to say how much the pair believed in their own estimations at the time, but by 1999 Gribbin himself had renounced the theory. In his The Little Book of Science, he wrote: “I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
iStock
iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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